Thursday, September 25, 2014

Olympic Winners and God's Rejoicing

I love watching the Olympics. One of the things I love watching is an Olympic coach celebrating his or her athlete’s win. A gymnast will stick a perfect landing or a swimmer will take first in a heat and their coach erupts in celebration. You would think that fist pumps and celebration dances would be reserved for the Olympians. But, often, the athlete’s coach leads the way.

The reason coaches celebrate wins is because they are invested in their athletes. They have spent countless hours pouring everything they know about their sport into their athlete. They have put a part of themselves into that athlete. That type of investment gives the coach a huge stake in the competition. When the coach’s athlete wins, they feel like they’ve won.

On a much bigger scale, God has a huge stake in the spiritual victories of His people. God went to great lengths, becoming human, so that His people might find victory. God invested in His people, teaching them the way of His Kingdom. God even poured out Himself on His people, giving them the Holy Spirit, to empower them in living out this kingdom.

With that type of investment, God surely celebrates the victories. When we find freedom from sin or healing in a broken relationship, God rejoices with us. The prophet Zephaniah describes this rejoicing, saying that God rejoices over His people with singing (3:17). Like the coach who has invested everything in their athlete, God surely pumps His fists in the air, celebrating our wins.

As you go through the coming week, remember that God has a stake in your story. God is invested a part of Himself in you and celebrates your wins. When you experience a victory in your walk with Him, join God in the celebration dance.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

This is Your Brain on...Negativity

Complaining causes brain damage. True story. According to INC Magazine, researchers are finding that overly negative talk is bad for the brain. In fact, listening to 30 minutes or more of a negative message peels away neurons in an area of the brain called the hippocampus. One author describes it in saying, “Basically, (negativity) turns your brain to mush.”

This isn’t a surprise to Christian folk. We’ve known for a long time that incessant negativity does more harm than good. In the first century, the Apostle Paul encouraged Christians to avoid negativity as a way of witnessing to the world. Paul wrote, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky,” (Philippians 2:14-15). It seems that positivity and harmony let the world know we are children of God.

Paul (and many other Christians) promote positivity and constructive behavior for other reasons too. Christians serve and worship a God of resurrection and redemption. Reading the end of the Gospels, we find our God smack dab in the midst of the most negative of situations (crucifixion). Instead of responding to the negativity with more negativity, Jesus miraculously turns it into something positive and good. The cross becomes the resurrection. In response, Jesus' people look for good, resurrection type things – even in the most negative of situations.

As you go through the coming week, look for positive things to celebrate. Compliment a co-worker on their work. Tell someone about the ways God has blessed you. Approach a challenging situation looking for constructive solutions instead of focusing on the problems. As you do, you will see the God of the resurrection at work in your life. You also might just do your brain some good.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Custom Christianity and the Call of Christ

Customization is king. From clothing to entertainment to groceries, we like to mix and match according to our wants. You want a metallic grey, four door, mid size, hybrid, with leather seats, blue tooth capability and an oversized trunk? Go to, fill out the search engine accordingly, and it will find you one. Want a short, half-calf, soy, one pump, sugar free, vanilla latte? There are ten coffee shops within five miles of your current location that will make you one with a smile. Customization is king.

This is making an impact on Christianity. People are picking and choosing what they like about Christianity while ignoring and rejecting what they don’t. In extreme cases, folks mix what they like about Christianity with bits of other religions that they like, creating a unique religion for themselves. In the end, Christianity (and even religion itself) gets so customized to the wants of the individual, it looks more like the individual than Jesus (or any other faith).

Jesus calls His people, His church, to something entirely different. At the end of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells His disciples to go to all nations, making disciples, and baptizing them. Then, Jesus says, “and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” No customization there. Jesus calls disciples to make disciples who obey everything Jesus commanded. In other words, the church is in the business of customizing people into image of Christ (by the power of the Holy Spirit) rather than customizing Christianity into the image of people.

As you go through the coming week, look at areas of the Christian faith that you don’t like and would rather do away with. Ask yourself why those things make you feel uncomfortable. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand why they make you feel uncomfortable. Then, ask the Lord help you grow in those things, becoming more like Him and the life He taught. As you do, you will find goodness and truth that goes beyond your basic wants and desires. You’ll also have a chance to grow in the Lord.